Why I Switched to Using 2 Desktop Computers - The Dual PC Life (Part 2)


If you haven't already, I highly recommend checking out part 1 of this story for more details: https://tech.brandonwhitehead.com/2019/01/why-i-switched-to-using-2-desktop.html

A quick summary of part 1 is that I switched to using 2 desktop computers because when I had everything on 1 computer I was without a usable computer for several weeks while troubleshooting. To prevent that from happening in the future I decided to pick up a secondary PC to use primarily for light duty tasks. Originally I picked up a Intel NUC8i5BEH with the hope that it would be the perfect fit for my needs. It was a good fit until I experienced several issues with using a USB device KVM/hardware switch which forced me to return the NUC.

Part 2

Returning the NUC

I ended up returning the NUC for a couple of reasons.
  1. Whatever USB controller they were using had a major compatibility issue with USB device switchers even when I purchased and tried utilizing a native USB 2.0 accessory lid for the NUC.
  2. The second reason being the fan. I was able to "drown it out" for the most part but it definitely could be quieter. The noise was akin to a laptop fan under moderate load even when the NUC was idling.
The USB issue was definitely the driving factor on returning the NUC though. The hardware device switcher I wanted to use just simply would not reliably work with the NUC no matter what I did. I don't know if Intel has since resolved the problem but for me it was large enough of a problem to warrant returning the NUC.

Replacing the NUC

So now that I planned on returning the NUC, I needed to find a worthy replacement. I had looked back at my original list of products from several companies and ended up settling on the ASRock DeskMini 310. It actually ended up being cheaper than the NUC when populated with a CPU and the RAM I already purchased for the NUC as well as the USB 2.0 cable accessory because Newegg happened to be having a sale on the DeskMini 310 at the time. I decided to pick it up and I am glad that I did.

My ASRock DeskMini 310 Build

The full build can be found here: https://pcpartpicker.com/list/DmYJQZ


At first, I was a bit disappointed because the DeskMini didn't have as many modern connectivity options (No Thunderbolt 3 or 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2). It still has plenty of USB connectivity but I was bummed that I lost out on the additional throughput that the NUC had. To be honest, that's where my list of complaints really ends with the DeskMini. The DeskMini actually has a lot going for it vs the Intel NUC. 

I like the fact that you can load up the DeskMini with a desktop class processor. For me, that meant that I had a lot more options for CPU choice and if I really wanted to I could put up to an Intel i7-8700 in if I desired. I believe they are going to update the UEFI to support 9th generation Intel processors as well at some point so that means I could make the DeskMini even more of a "tiny beast" computer.

I chose an Intel i5-8400 because the price to performance ratio at the time is good for my use case of the DeskMini. 6 physical cores is plenty for occasionally running Hyper-V VMs, video encoding and performing other light to medium duty tasks.

The overall size of the DeskMini is still small even though it is "considerably larger" than the NUC. However, that additional size difference is not for nought. It allows for the Intel stock CPU cooler and aftermarket ones such as the NH L9i from Noctua to fit inside without issue. I went with the NH L9i and I have to say that when the CPU is not under heavy load, it is so quiet that I quite literally cannot hear it. That's a major improvement compared to the sound profile of the Intel NUC. Kudos to Noctua for being able to achieve complete silence.

I'm also happy to report that I haven't had a single issue utilizing a hardware switch/KVM device with the DeskMini. Hallelujah!!!


I'm trying to keep this one a bit shorter than Part 1 because I've already covered a lot of the details there. To conclude Part 2, I'm happy to report that I think I made the right decision by getting the DeskMini 310. It really is a powerful little PC that is a great alternative to the Intel NUC. I may write a more in-depth review of the DeskMini, but for now I'll leave it at that.